Happy Labor day , yall! Take off those white jeans and tie up your sailboats!
I figure on a day like this ,that means absolutely nothing to a guy like me (IE: one who doesn’t have a normal job), it would be cool to reminisce about “Labor days”, the album. For those who don’t know, this was the first Aesop rock release on Definitive Jux records that I produced a large chunk of. Because it was so long ago, I honestly don’t have that many concise memories of that time but I figured it would interest some of you if I rattled off as many as I possibly could about that album/era. I’m totally winging this right now so let’s see what comes up…
1) Why there are not instrumentals for this album floating around
All the beats on “Labor days” were two tracked. Meaning, I sequenced/mixed them on my sampler and then we recorded the entire beat , as is , onto Aesop’s digital 8-track. If you ever wondered why that album (and “Float” before it) didn’t have the bangingest drums, that is why. All things considered , I think it came out pretty well , though I can’t sit through “Daylight” without wishing I had put better drums on it. Fuckin’ rimshot? Ughh…
Anyway, after it was on the 8-track, we got it all mixed down at Cryptic One’s house in long island. He pretty much mixed the prerecorded beats and vocals (that Aesop had already laid down). Basically, he polished what could have been a turd , into something that sounded legit.
Anyway, because no one realized this album was going to be the success it was, we only made instrumental versions for the songs that were going on the singles. This was: Daylight, Coma, Boom Box, Labor, and the B-sides Maintenance and Kill’em all (RJD2 remix).
Basically, any song on “Labor days” that wasn’t those songs does not have an existing instrumental. That is why you will never hear Aes perform certain songs from that album live. Cause the beats simply do not exist.
2)How “Daylight” happened
When I first made the beat for “Daylight” , I liked it but didn’t love it. Honestly, I thought it was kinda soft. I certainly didn’t think Aesop would like it.
Anyway, one day i had a bunch of people over. It was Aesop and a bunch of Atom’s family guys (I know Cryptic was there, maybe Vast, Maybe Hangar 18). I was just playing them all beats. The beat for “Daylight” came on and I distinctly remember Cryptic being the first to react. He loved it. This shocked me cause he typically was more of a dark and ominous type (music-wise). The more it went on , it seemed like everyone was into it. That must have lit the spark for Aes cause the next day he told me he had an idea for a song over that beat.
I’m not gonna lie, I was shocked he wanted it even then. Not cause it was wack but more cause it just didn’t seem like a beat he’d like. I think I learned then that Aesop’s taste in my beats was never obvious. With the exception of a few, he always surprised me…and that’s a good thing.
So, He wrote the song, told me the sequencing parameters and I sequenced it. I still hadn’t heard the verses until after he recorded it.
He laid them down and I remember listening to it for the first time like “Oh shit..this is something”. Once I heard the hook, I knew this was something that neither of us had really done before. It wasn’t a “pop” song, but it was the first song we’d done that I thought had legs beyond just underground rap heads. It seemed bigger.
After the vocals were done we needed to add something to take it over the top. That’s where the “yes yes yall! you don’t stop!Keep on, til the break of dawn!” came in. To be perfectly honest, we both were laughing at it at first. It was too much. Like hip hop overkill. Straight up, it was corny. We both thought so. But, i think we were in the mind set of “Fuck it. If there is ever a song to let the corny flag fly, it’s this one”. So we kept it in and the rest is history.
3)Bent Life was originally with SLug and Eyedea
There was a time between “Float” and “labor days” where Slug and Eyedea were visiting NYC. While they were there, we recorded a bunch of shit. Most of which, never came out. One of the songs we had done was a different version of “Bent Life” featuring Aes, Slug and Eyedea. I think what happened to it was it sat on the shelf so long that none of the artists were really happy with their verses after the lay off. Basically, it was too dated. So, it was scrapped in favor for the version with C-Rayz Walz. I’m fairly certain I’m the only person with the original version in my grasp but I also am pretty sure I lost it like 5 years ago. Sucks cause it would be crazy to hear that again. The only thing I remember about it is that eyedea’s verse was nuts and he basically kicked the whole thing in one long breath.
UPDATE: The Original song has since been recovered and leaked to the world. It’s called Thorns
4)I had a rough time with the recording of “Bent Life”
Cause we scrapped the older version, we had to rerecord the new one with C-rayz. If I recall, this was the last song made for this album and we were under a pretty tight deadline. All I had to do was bring the floppy disks over to Aesop’s house. That’s all. Here’s the thing, we were recording it on new years day. I don’t remember why it had to be that day but it was crucial and a big deal at the time. This wouldn’t be a big deal to most professional people. But, like the asshole I was, I had gotten next level obliterated the night before. In fact, I can easily say it’s the drunkest and sickest I’ve ever been. I drank a bottle of Captain morgan’s and then smoked two blunts with hash at a party and I spent 4 hours of that night barfing in the kitchen sink of the apartment I was at. I was wrecked. I don’t even know how I got home. The next day I woke up feeling like warmed over AIDS and then I remembered I had to walk cross town to drop these disks off at Aes’s. The initial plan was for me to stick around for the recording and everything but after Aes heard what kinda shape I was in, I think he knew it would be better for me to not even be there. So, I trudged across town (Aes lived on 11th street and avenue A at the time and I was in the west village) and gave him the disks. I hope I apologized but, honestly, I don’t remember even being inside my body that day. I do remember going home and barfing more though.
Strangely enough, when I listen to “Labor Days” now, “Bent life” is one of my favorite songs. go figure.
5)The songs that didn’t make it.
There was a long break time between recording of “Float” and “Labor days”. Being the prolific guy he is, Aesop had recorded stuff the whole time in between. “Float” was a long album. I think we both agree it was made before either of us understood the concept of not putting every song you record on the album. Sometimes, you gotta trim the fat. So, when labor days came around, we were more conscious about it. This led to some tough choices though cause some of the songs that had been made were really good. Songs like “Water” got cut cause it just didn’t fit with the rest of the album and , personally, it was too similar to “Battery” (which I felt was one of he most powerful songs on the album). So it got shelved.
As did “Jinx planet” and a few others that no one has ever heard of. Looking back , we did the right thing. “Labor days” was much more concise at the length it was. 14 songs is enough. Ask LL. 14 shots the dome, bro.
6) No regrets
I don’t have much to say about this song except that when I initially heard what Aesop had done on it, I was floored. Not only cause he killed it, but cause it was the first time I had ever heard him rap in a simple manner. I was really excited about this song. not only cause it was just a dope song in general but cause it would be a great silencer of his critics who felt he didn’t flow right. That shit always infuriated me cause , as someone who had freestyled with him and just been around him, I knew he could rap any number of ways. This song was the proof. Not surprisingly, it was also most girls favorite song on the album not named “Daylight”.
7)Aesop played the bass on “Flashflood”
I had made this beat and knew it was a weird one. It really didn’t have a catchy riff to it. It just kinda changed a lot and had a super dark vibe to it. For some reason, I wanted Aes to rhyme on it though so I pushed for him to try it. The idea was to just rock one long verse over this constantly transforming beat. Problem was, He had done a similar song over a somewhat similar beat by Omega one. Once both songs were done, it was really a toss up as to which was better. My song was definitely missing something while Omega’s was perhaps too dark. That’s when Aes called me and asked me if it would be cool to add a bass line to “Flashflood”. I was like “Of course” and the next time I heard it that simple bass line had pretty much transformed that entire song into something else. The day was saved.
Well, shit…that’s all I remember for now. If you got more questions I could certainly try and answer them in the comments section. Sometimes memories have to be jostled loose.